Friday, 9 June 2017

Wayne Thiebaud 1962 to 2017

Another really good exhibition this, at White Cube St James's, from one of America's most prominent painters. It is so fantastic that Thiebaud turns 97 this year, and yet is still finding the inspiration and impetus to continue working. It is great to see these mouthwatering paintings of slices of pie, cake, and other foodstuffs, which the majority of us enjoy Instagramming daily, and to realise that Thiebaud pre-figured this 'food porn' obsession long before Instagram was even a twinkle in Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger's eyes.

Thiebaud is a great colourist - combining delicate pastel hues with acid bright, almost psychedelic hues. All for the most part executed in delightfully viscous, slathered on impastos creating lovely surface textures, and reflecting the thick rinds of the cheeses, and dense, creamy icing of the cakes. It is interesting that Thiebaud treats the shadows cast by the objects themselves as areas of colour in their own right, rather than just areas of grey negative space. That he clearly revels in the physicality of paint is very much evidenced in these wonderful paintings, where the icing on the cakes is as lovingly and thickly plastered on in these paintings as it is in the actual objects.


The upper gallery is devoted to his well composed, observational, still life paintings which reference Pop Art in their consumable product based subject matter, which skilfully contrast and balance areas of blank canvas with the food focused subject matter.

This very simple still life study of a cigar really had me absorbed for some time. For me it was a meditation, and had the power of one of those 17th century Dutch vanitas and memento mori paintings, in which we are reminded that all earthly pleasures in this material world are transient, and that we all, in time, eventually shuffle off this mortal coil and make the transition to spirit.

The lower floor is devoted to some strong portraiture and landscape painting again showcasing Thiebaud's masterful colour palette and playing off subject matter with areas of blank canvas. Compositionally I think the landscapes, where he adopts an aerial viewpoint are slightly weaker, except for Sandy Cliff, (second picture below), which interestingly verges on abstraction. I think that maybe this is the right time for a bigger, more career defining retrospective of Thiebaud's work in this country.

Wayne Thiebaud 1962 to 2017
until 2nd July
White Cube
Mason's Yard
St James's